Are the Hawks Grooming the Next Kyle Korver?


Kyle Korver is the best 3-point shooter in the game. Period. Yes, the Steph Curry-type shooters have more dimension to their games, but Korver is by far the best pure shooter the league has. Need proof? Last season he shot 49% from beyond the arc on his way to his first All-Star appearance at age 33. While he is far from the most athletic player on the team, Korver is most definitely the team’s X-factor. Opposing defenses have to respect Korver’s shooting ability, and it opens up so many scoring opportunities for his teammates. Remember this play?

Needless to say, Korver’s impact is much more than just the 12.1 points per game he averaged last season. Unfortunately, Korver’s body gave out at the end of last season, and he has had to undergo numerous surgeries in 2015. Yes, he will be ready to return, but Korver is no spring chicken and is a guy who has relied on improved mobility to make the transition from just another 3-point specialist to an All-Star. He has used sprints and the teachings of two defensive gurus, Tom Thibodeau and Mike Budenholzer, to expand his game. “Just playing more minutes, the more minutes have really helped him. It’s interesting. I should have (given him more minutes) in hindsight,” said Thibodeau in a piece by AJC writer Chris Vivlamore. Mike Budenholzer gave Korver his chance… and turned him into one of the most deadly matchup nightmares in the league.

However, as I said, Korver has suffered multiple injuries and is getting up there in age. This is not to say Korver will not be effective or the same caliber player next season. It’s just a reminder that the Hawks have to keep an eye on the future. Who will be the next Kyle Korver? Who will Coach Bud utilize to create offense for the rest of his players? Nobody seems to be talking about him, but the team may have found a similar skillset in second round selection Marcus Eriksson.

Eriksson had built some hype for himself as a late-first round selection prior to tearing his ACL. The sharpshooter currently plays for FC Barcelona, where he will remain overseas next season as another draft and stash project for Atlanta. He’s just 21 years old.

Where do the comparisons begin? Let’s take a look at the size. How many times have you heard the following statement? Kyle Korver can’t play defense. Yea, that really grinds my gears to hear too. They couldn’t be any more wrong. Kyle has busted his tail to expand his defense, and he’s far from the defensive liability he was earlier in his career. He’s not your Demarre Carroll type crazy wing defender, but is a solid defender in his own right. A lot of this can be attributed by him being 6’7″. Having this frame has made his defensive transformation a whole lot easier. Guess what? Eriksson is cut from the same cloth. He stands at 6’7″ as well, though he likely needs to add a few more bounds on at 190 lbs. You can’t teach wingspan, and Eriksson has it. He’s just got to put more meat on his bones.

Eriksson was picked 50th overall. Korver? 51st.

The comparisons don’t stop there. If we’re going to compare this kid to Kyle Korver… he can probably shoot the rock. The Swedish sharpshooter owns a career 45% 3-point percentage across his 3 professional seasons in Europe. In the 2012-13 season, he shot over 50% in a season. If that’s not Korver-esque, I don’t know what is. Need more proof?

That’s cute, can’t every NBA player drain shots on practice?

I’m just trying to show you that this kid can flat out stroke the ball. Let’s take a look at the actual game tape.

With a pure eye test, Eriksson doesn’t look like Kyle Korver. Their releases could not be any different, though both quick. However, when you watch it is clear that he does a lot of the same things Korver does for the Hawks. He can shoot from deep range and drain threes. He’s actually a lot more aggressive to the hoop than Korver and appears to be a little better off the dribble. Once he’s past the three point line he plays a European game much similar to what we have seen through the years out of Manu Ginobili. No, I’m not saying this kid is going to be Manu, but don’t tell me you don’t see the similarities when driving to the hoop. He also appears to be a much better defender than Korver was coming out of college. You can see how he uses his quickness to get open, much like Korver.

Look, you can’t clone NBA players. Marcus Eriksson won’t be Kyle Korver. But he very well could be the next guy the Hawks use to open up avenues for their other players and become a deep threat. A lot of European players never make it to the NBA, but it’s clear that the Hawks are using the European market in a much different sense than most teams. I think at the very least this kid can be a really solid role player in this league, especially in a system like Coach Bud runs. This kid would never survive on a team that runs a ton of ISO, but hey, neither would Kyle Korver. If this kid doesn’t get hurt and has a nice year overseas, he’s a first round pick.

Eriksson is most definitely a guy worth keeping an eye on this upcoming season.

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